“When The Soul awakes, it does the yoga.”
The Soul is called by various names: The Authentic Self and/or The Unique Self being perhaps the best known. I often refer to The Soul as The Real or True Self.
The Soul is an interesting third position vis a vis the ego (the personal self) and spirit (the impersonal SELF). The Soul is trans-personal. It is the deepest part of individuality (that's the 'personal' part in transpersonal). Nevertheless, The Soul is also sourced in Spirit and therefore feels the freedom of the Spirit realm (the 'trans' part). It is this combination of being both sourced in The Ultimate while simultaneously being interested in the realm of creation that gives The Soul its unique character and identity.
The Spirit identity (generally speaking) does not make distinctions and does not therefore have “interest” (if that is the right word) in the specific affairs of arising phenomena. Spirit embraces all manifestation without distinction and therefore does not give great insight into how best to navigate in the world of form.
Conversely, the ego desires to live in this world but swims in the sea of fear. The ego is an evolutionary self-protective mechanism for the human organism and is therefore always on the lookout for potential threats (fear) or ways to increase pleasure (desire). It has some facility in this world, but is profoundly limited and contracted. The ego also leads to deep pain and suffering in this world.
Enter then The Soul. It is the solution to the problem of navigation in this world. From its Ground in Spirit it comes into the world free of fear but as simultaneously rooted in creation (individuality and relationship) it has a great passion for this world. It is this combination of freedom and intense passion that produces the wisdom and the courage of The Soul.
The Soul is the often forgotten third party in the life of awakened embodiment. The Soul transcends and includes this world. The Soul is both profoundly personal (The True or Unique Self) and yet simultaneously deeply transcendent.
As Br. Juma would say, Spirit is Free and Full but the Soul is Flavorful (The 3 F’s).
It is The Flavor of Enlightenment that is The Soul. As Marc Gafni says, The Soul is Emptiness (Spirit) plus Perspective (Deepest Individuality). The Soul is Spirit embodied as a perspective.
A number of important corollaries follow from this point about The Soul as Enlightenment’s Flavor and Perspective.
1. The Soul can learn to deeply embrace the egoic personality as its vehicle of Incarnation. The Soul doesn’t necessarily do this—it requires specific attention paid to performing this act. But when The Soul does embrace The Ego (with the clarity of Spirit as its origination point), there is a much deeper, real-er entrance into human flesh. The key way to embrace the ego from the position of The Soul is simply to do it. If one feels more identified with The Soul, at that moment, bring to mind one's ego and in whatever way makes sense, feel The Soul embrace that reality. You might imagine it like hugging a child or giving breath to the ego. I feel it more like a sense of coming down into my flesh in a more visceral way. But whatever image or movement works for the individual, the key is to feel the ego brought within The Soul's domain and not the reverse. The Soul includes and yet transcends the ego not vice versa. Spiritual teachers who are very helpful on this point include Thomas Hubl, Genpo Roshi (see video above), and Saniel & Linda Bonder.
2. The Soul can express trans-personal versions of human attributes like sexuality, gender, art, and learning. This aspect of The Soul is profoundly underdeveloped (in my opinion) in integral (and non-integral) forms of spirituality to date. Diane Hamilton has explored the terrain of transpersonal Eros. Marc Gafni has begun to lay out a path for this dimension of The Soul with his work on sacred (transpersonal or Soul-based) autobiography (as opposed to egoic biographies).
3. The Soul is the source of one’s vocation (sacred duty/calling) in this world. The Soul is a renewed and deeply real sincerity and moral evolution of the human being. The teacher who has done the deepest and most profound work in this area is Andrew Cohen.
4. The Soul can be in true intimacy with other beings. The Soul is not afraid to be who he or she is. The Soul is the deepest part of the individual and yet as I’ve said expressed the freedom of The Spirit identity. The Soul therefore has nothing to hide. It desires to be in true intimacy with other Souls. It seeks true Soul Communion. Again, the teachers who have done the most work on this intersubjective communion (or yoga) of Souls are Saniel Bonder (“greenlighting”), Thomas Hubl (“transparent relation”), Craig Hamilton (“collective awakening”), and Andrew Cohen (“Enlightened Communication”).*
Since an individual is completely his/her own Flavor of Enlightenment, truly his/her own Unique Authentic Soul, there is no competition. There is no need to (as in the egoic realm) to gain at the other’s expense. Souls in communion are truly non-zero in their logic—a win for one is a win for all and is celebrated as such. The Soul knows that it is its own Being in this world and it has no one else that it need compare itself to or become like yet for that same reason it knows that it needs all the other Souls to awaken and be themselves as The Souls in order for this grand project to proceed
5. The Soul is a force (the force) for the impulse of Evolution on this planet. The Soul’s boundless energy is aligned to the very drive of Evolution itself. Some would say it is the Energy of Evolution itself, became self-conscious in the human vehicle.**
Numbers 1-5 are why the “a” and “s” in Authentic Self and the “u” and “s” in Unique Self are capitalized. The Spirit identity can be described as SELF with the all capitals signifying the completely transcendental nature of Spirit as Impersonal. The ego then is self, all lowercase letters signifying the completely relative and dualistic (personal) nature of its being. The Soul is capital letter at the beginning, lower case the rest of the word to signify its combination of both transcendental (impersonal) and immanent (personal) characteristics: the combination of those two is transpersonal (including yet transcending the personal).
Egos often try to describe themselves as authentic or as practicing authenticity, or for that matter uniqueness. But The Soul identity is not authentic or unique in the egoic sense. The Soul is Authentic and Unique not authentic or unique. I capitalize Soul for the same reason to distinguish between the common usage of soul as having energy, passion in a general (and usually egoic) sense and Soul in its truest transpersonal sense.
Egos can be authentic or inauthentic—lowercase. They can be degrees of one or the other through hard work, effort, and so on. Spirit transcends concepts of authentic or inauthentic. The Authentic Self is Authentic from the get go. It comes with the instruction manual already installed—it just needs to be downloaded and run.
How To Access The Soul
Following, the trajectory of this series, the first step I believe is to very deeply ground in Spirit (or Ultimate Identity & State). [You can read more about that in the previous post on Being the Spirit].
After some period of time resting in Spirit you may discover a deep desire to participate in this world, to serve and to give your life to that which has graced you with Presence. In the space of Ultimate Presence, you can Inquire, “Who is the True Self?” Or “What is my individual expression of This?”
Perhaps the most direct taste of The Soul comes from the tradition of the Big Mind (voice dialog) Process. With this practice you can ask to speak to the voice of The True Self. From the perspective of The True Self, inquire: “What is the world like from my point of view? How does it feel to be me (The True Self)? What is my role (as The True Self)?”
A group setting can be a powerful context for the arising of The Soul. Craig Hamilton offers the following Principles of Evolutionary Culture and Guidelines for Awakening Through Conversation. I’ve experienced these as a very potent goad into deeper collective space.
The key in this format is to speak simply to experience—speak to what you (and the group) experience occurring when you put your collective attention on what is happening in the midst of the group (often called the “field”). Inquire into what is occurring rather than conversing with fixed positions. Most importantly, be willing to become transparent, both to your light and darkness. Be prepared to see into and hold the light and darkness of the others. Notice how joyful (if also scary) the nature of such an experience is.
To use the language of mythos for a second, in the group experience each person comes to stand in his/her throne. They assume the Voice of Wisdom, an Elder, a King or Queen. The participants come to the group to be together in this space and offer compassionate judgment (“wisdom”) on the felt quality and threads of experience as well as any issues that may arise for the members.
It is imperative that the individuals do not come to teach the others, but rather all take up the attitude and position of being on a common team, on a joint exploration, of a mutual process built in trust and transparency. It is a space of fundamental love and care.
If the ego swims in the sea of fear and desire (which it does), The Soul swims in these seas of trust, compassion, sincerity, heartfulness, humor, and passion. If those qualities are invoked, then The Soul will awaken. Having awakend, The Soul will then do The Yoga.
After being graced with the experience of The Soul through an individual practice of Big Mind or a group practice of enlightened dialog, the key then becomes to listen to its voice throughout one’s day. The Soul must be chosen and lived into in the midst of existence.
If, after having experienced the identity and the drives of The Soul, we choose another agenda (e.g. ego’s agenda), we will feel pain, Soul pain. It is a feeling of violation; it is immediate, gross and raw, like a punch to the solar plexus.
If The Soul’s will is activated more and more, however, then a deeper sense of purpose and meaning shows up in one’s life automatically. Though The Soul is not interested in this feeling per se—it’s driven by its motivations to serve not to be served—it is a welcome secondary effect.
There is much much more to be said on this extremely important subject. I hope this article has just given a taste of what The Soul is up to. My sense is that The Soul is the most misunderstood and perhaps least appreciated of the three identities. If I asked for people to send in experiences of being healed of trauma or having awakened to the timeless Heart of all Reality, I think I'd get quite a few.
Instead I'd be much more interested to hear people's stories of contacting The Soul. When did it happen? How? What occurred in The Soul space?
* I think it is probably fair to characterize Bonder and Hubl’s communal spiritual practices as more emphasizing points 1 & 2 whereas Andrew’s praxis emphasizes point 5. All three key into to points 3 & 4 in their distinctive ways.
** In his notes to this piece, Br. TJ asked me:
In these five points, one might get the impression that the Soul is autonomous to the individual, that it has its own agenda, and its actions are separate from and unknown to the individual. is this the case?
My answer is: Kinda. I would say the Soul’s agenda is autonomous to the ego. So I would change what TJ has written as individual to ego and then I would basically agree with it. I don’t define the individual solely as the egoic personality, but yes the Soul and the ego (as I understand it) run on parallel and non-intersecting tracks (to borrow an image from Andrew Cohen). The ego and The Soul have different experiences, different drives, different self-identities, different agendas. In fact, the same thing could be said of all three identities in relation to each other: SPIRIT, Soul, and ego.